March 11, ‘04

Passionate Corpse

Eugene Halton


AAnd not all the King=s Men, nor his horses

will resurrect his corpus...@  BJames Joyce


We humans seem to have a constant case of kitsch acting on our souls like dandruff, obscuring reality with idealizing. Mel Gibson=s The Passion of The Christ is Hollywood=s latest venture in stretching the envelope of mainstream sadomasochism, which is the virtual religion of Americans, judging by the amount of time spent viewing acts of violence perpetrated in media and in real life.

Gibson has found an excellent means of connecting the sadomasochistic kitsch culture Americans love to watchBthe stuff of his own Lethal Weapon filmsBwith the religious sentiments surrounding the crucifixion of Christ. What a juicy connection! Kill the Kitsch-Khrist!

Christians can lament the brutal savagery perpetrated on their savior while Jews can lament being victimized as perpetrators. Everyone can be a perp-victim! Even Shiite Muslims can take comfort that they are not alone when they willingly whip themselves into frenzied, bloody pulp to commemorate sacred victimization, the murder of Mohammed=s grandson Hussein. After all, Christians seem to worship the same sadomasochistic zone: the subtle, gory details of Jesus=s unjust tortures, humiliations, and murder. And more: His voluntary carrying out of the suicide mission as a means of Asaving@ humanity!

Gibson attacked the media for drawing attention to his father=s warped religious views, which include the idea that the Holocaust did not occur. He earnestly tells the media not to attempt to break the sacred bond between father and son, between him and his father, perhaps identifying himself a tad too much with Jesus. Perhaps Mel does have a bond with the Christ story, that of a father willing to sacrifice his son to ungodly violence. Perhaps the fact that Mel chose to have his own hands hammer the nails into Jesus in the film should suggest the source of the pain his act should call out to himself: that of the father perpetrating unjust violence on the son. Perhaps Gibson=s father beat this movie into Mel, more than Jesus ever could.

Ah patriarchy! Remember Abraham, who Afathered@ the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions of the book, ready to skewer his son Isaac. Perhaps there was more than just a touch of Oedipal rivalry in Abraham's hammering turn from the polytheistic idols of his father, which he one day smashed up when his father was out, to his monotheistic, iconoclastic idyll. He smashed literalism, but replaced it with abstractionism, even further removed from the living earth than the statues of civilized polytheism. The father of the religions of the book did not smash his father literally, but smashed his living art just to make a point.

He was also later willing to sacrifice his living son Isaac to his own Abstraction. The invisible idolatry of abstract intelligence, willing to smash inanimate statues to make an abstract point, willing to kill a living son to worship an abstract conception of a Father.

Jesus Christ: agitator for loving humanity, unjustly put to death. A carpenter turned into carpentry. The acts and stories of love he created form the reality of his life, to which his death was but one chapter. We do not image Socrates drinking to the dregs the hemlock he was unjustly sentenced to take to end his life; we celebrate his life in the deeds and words which record it. Why elevate the sadomasochistic end of Jesus, as if that outweighs his life? Because by magic it provides a ticket to eternity for humanity?

Those who need "magic acts" of perfection are like those who take the stink of father Zosima's corpse in The Brothers Karamazov to mean that the man was not a saint but corrupt,  not realizing bodily death and corruption says nothing about loving life and others. Living life large in love is what incarnation is all about, whether one is Christian or not. Jesus lived life large in love, with a kind of radioactive charisma likely to get one killed by those who live in power, insufficiently open to the powers of love.

The man Jesus was killed by the power structure, incapable of tolerating his call to the power of the powerless through passionate love. The divinity that Jesus realized, his living spontaneous soul, was killed later, by Christ, by that idealizing mythos which declared that the sadomasochistic murder of Jesus was a universal ticket to heaven, that the dead Jesus=s body could not stink, that the living body is not much more than stink, and that idealized love is better than the love of life. Kitsch: the denial that shit happens.

Over historical time the idealized love of Paulinist-Augustinian Christianity, with its otherworldly denigration of the passionate body, became something far worse than the corporeal stink of death, it became a living-death-machine, the rational-mechanical consciousness of the modern era. Idealized Love, unreal to life, brought forth its own opposite, Materialized Hate, the murderous-suicidal template of our time. It is Hobbes=s state of nature, a macho-materialist Awarre of every one against every one.@ It is Newton=s schizoid mechanical universe, in which all that can be loved is a mere fiction, while all that is machine-like is natural. It is our world in the process of final perfection, the elevation of the machine of calculating consciousness, the evisceration of passionate spontaneous intelligence, of that evolutionary love embedded in our deepest bodily instincts.

Look out for Lethal Crucifiction II: ADeus ex machina,@ literally the God out of the machine, is the crypto-religious myth by which we are murdering the world and ourselves with it.



Images: details from watercolor, Tis Sore Pity (from Finnegan’s Wake), by Fritz Janschka. Private Collection